30+ Craft Show Essentials
It’s that time of year again: plants are starting to bloom, shop doors are open to let in the breeze, and woodworkers are gearing up for craft shows! You might already be building up your inventory and scheduling your weekends around the spring and summer craft show circuit. We know that you're busy sanding and planing so you have pieces to show off and sell at your booth. But polished pieces are only a portion of a successful summer show. Here’s a list of over 20 items you’ll also need for a successful and profitable craft show operation.
By the way, many things on this list can be stored in a bin to reuse at multiple shows, which can save you time to work on the stuff that has to be started from scratch each event, such as your craft show application, creating an opening inventory list, and posting any advertising to maximize your traffic.
SALES TRANSACTION SETUP
There’s lots of ways to measure the success of a craft show. But at the end of the day, dollars earned is likely one of the most important. Here’s what you need to make payments at your booth as smooth as possible:
- Bring at least $100 cash in $1’s, $5’s and $10’s along with a cash box, bag, or fanny pack to keep the cash handy and organized.
- Bring a calculator with fresh batteries to total purchases, while keeping your phone available for other uses.
- A receipt book is handy for cash purchases to keep track of cash flow and which specific items sold.
Payment Acceptance Method
- Some people may come with a pocket full of cash, but odds are that most people are just bringing their debit cards and smartphones. And if they’re really tech-savvy, their debit cards will be exclusively on their phones!
- Have your Paypal, Venmo, Square, or other payment method located conveniently on your phone homescreen.
- Utilize QR codes for an easy non-contact method of accepting payment. Not sure how to use QR codes for payment? We got you covered!
- Be sure to post visible signs that you accept credit card payment, including your account information for PayPal, Venmo, Square, or whatever method you’re using. If customers are unsure, it’s too easy for them to move on past your booth.
- Depending on the payment method, have the provider’s credit card authorization phone number available.
Ensure Wi-Fi is Available
- If you are using a payment device other than your phone, you may need wi-fi to execute transactions. If Wi-Fi can’t be guaranteed, you might want to come prepared with a device that can create a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Business License or Vendor Permit
- Some events may require your business license or seller's permit. For some events, you may be able to use your social security number instead.
A beautiful painting needs a beautiful frame. Don’t skimp on the actual booth itself. An interesting, neat, and professional booth might be what convinces customers to stop by your booth over a competitor’s with the same merchandise. Not only that, but you need a few things handy when someone walks up with a piece of yours to buy. Have these ready for your booth:
Quality Tent or Canopy
- Shelter from the sun and elements is critical. If possible, bring attachable sides in case of rain.
- Also bring stakes or 20lb weights with rope or zip ties to hold down the legs in case of wind.
- A full color banner with your shop name and logo hanging over your booth or by your products is going to draw the attention of passersby.
- Many buyers at craft shows are overwhelmed with things to look at, so a visual representation of your brand may be the image a customer carries away with them as a reminder of your company.
Bins, Cart, or Dolly
- Make transporting inventory from your vehicle to your assigned location as efficient as possible. You don’t want sweat stains on your shirt from carrying your stuff back and forth!
- Bring a table for displaying merchandise, along with any other merchandise displays, risers, or shelves you could put on your table to create vertical space.
- Keep products as close to eye level as possible by using risers and shelves to raise them above table height.
- Merchandise displays can be as critical as the products you created to sell. Showing your merchandise in a clear, organized fashion, with plenty of room for customers to view your products up close, is critical. Most U-shaped table arrangements allow for 2 or 3 tables. Using coordinating tablecloth colors on all 3 gives the greatest impact. Even better if 1 tablecloth features your logo!
- Bring clamps and duct tape in case wind requires you to hold down tablecloths.
- It’s a long day. Take every opportunity to take a load off.
- You’ll want bags for small items.
- And paper for wrapping large items for transport or gift-giving.
- Be ready for a retail emergency with pens, extra tags, tape, scissors, calculator, and a bag for garbage
Why does your logo have be limited to just your booth? Include marketing materials with your purchases or even to sell, and watch your satisfied customers take your logo and brand with them as they walk around the show. Plus, they’ll have your information the next time they are looking to buy. Consider investing in these materials for your show:
- Handing your customer a business card is the perfect opportunity to continue your business’s interaction with them even after the craft show is over.
- Bring a paper weight or business card holder that will keep your materials safe from wind.
- If you want to provide the customer with more information than will fit on a standard business card, consider a LINQ digital business card.
- The card can send potential customers to your Instagram, YouTube videos, Etsy store, online reviews, and more information on your website.
- Cards that describe the product, its purposes, a description of materials used, tips for maintenance, and/or a background story to give some life to your product can help convince customers to purchase your pieces.
Merch and Swag
- Bring T-shirts with your logo for sale!
- You might also bring an inexpensive giveaway for customers to remember you, such as a can koozie or wood tag with your logo. Your potential customer can still support you, even if they aren’t taking home the live-edge floating shelves they were looking at. That may be the first stage of future business!
Craft shows are a marathon, not a sprint! There’s a few supplies you’ll need to keep up your sanity and spirit for those long days:
Weather Related Prep
- Protect yourself from the elements too! Sunglasses, sunscreen, jacket, umbrella, or fan will keep you comfortable, depending on the weather forecast.
- Keep yourself and your customer’s safe with hand sanitizer and/or sanitizer wipes.
- You will definitely want your phone charged up at your booth. Bring an extension cord in case power is a distance away. Investing in an external battery pack might be worth it!
Snacks and Drinks
- Stay hydrated on a hot day with plenty of water. Be wary of salty snacks, since those might dehydrate you, too!
Make sure the rest of your business is as prepared as your booth! While your booth may be playing a lead role at the show, you’ll still need a whole crew of supporting roles to help your business thrive and grow. Take the time to update and prepare a few things outside the craft booth as well:
Portfolio of Your Work
- Not everyone will want to take the time to view your Instagram account, so consider printing photos of your favorite projects, and showing various options you may offer.
- For custom commissions, consider having wood finish sample options.
- If you will be referring potential clients to your website or Etsy store, ensure your inventory, pricing, photos and branding are all updated on those sites.
- Post a reminder to your customers online to visit you for the event.
- Notify your email or SMS list of the event and give them an opportunity to view your merchandise firsthand.
- The best way to know if your event was profitable is to include the cost to produce the goods you sold, so you’ll need a beginning and ending inventory to make that calculation.
The craft show is your opportunity to show off your incredible work and designs. You can put your products directly in front of hundreds or thousands of potential customers who are looking for new things to purchase. To help them recognize your brand, remember your brand, and go home with your pieces, there are a few essentials. So don’t just bring your tables, serving trays, and bookshelves. Remember to bring a tablecloth with your logo, a big banner to hang, business cards (paper and digital!), product information cards, and a QR code to streamline payment.
Have other questions about building your maker brand and business? Subscribe to the Business for Makers Blog and Business for Makers Podcast for insights and tips. Tune to Sawdust Talk on IGTV Live on Wednesdays at 10 pm CST to hear from makers about their projects and business and meet some great members of the maker community.
By the way, once you get your business name, you’ll need T-shirts to show it off! Check out georgesupplyco.com to get your maker business’s name and logo on a shirt, hoodie, or hat.
Scott Chervitz is owner of George Supply Company, dedicated to helping woodshops build their brand. See more at GeorgeSupplyCo.com. You can reach him at Scott@GeorgeSupplyCo.com or on Instagram at @GeorgeSupplyCompany
Brian Chervitz, M.S., is an Associate Instructional Designer at the University of Wisconsin Extended Campus.